Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Contraband Tobacco, Bill C-10 and Six Nations: Threatened Violence and Protests Loom Over Haldimand and Brant

Background to the Bill C-10 Controversy:  The matter of Bill C-10, and its potential impact on one of the mainstays of the economy at Six Nations, contraband tobacco, has been heating up lately as the date of the probable passage of this Bill into law looms.  Threats of violence and other action which could / would impact Haldimand and Brant should the Bill pass, have even been issued. 

Earlier I provided some background to the problem as seen here.  First, a quick review of some of the salient points would be in order before exploring the latest developments.

The infiltration of illegal contraband (untaxed) tobacco into the Six Nations Community, which began about 35 years ago, was in large measure merely tolerated by many (including all levels of government).  No one was under any illusion as to where this tobacco being sold on the Reserve to anyone (age restrictions optional) was coming from.  It was being smuggled by boat and transport truck from Cornwall Island and other locations at the Akwesasne Mohawk Reserve which is parsed into Ontario, Quebec, and New York geographical segments (the Reserve is within all these jurisdictions - and thus both Canada and the United States).  In the 1980s small huts began sprouting up everywhere on the Reserve, and most particularly in areas where there would be high traffic of White people (e.g., Highway 54 east of Chiefswood Bridge), and on the peripheries of Brantford, Hagersville and Caledonia.  Once the saturation level of these aesthetically displeasing shanties with associated traffic annoyances reached a tipping point, I sold my home and moved to an area where my family and I would not be daily (hourly) exposed to these establishments. 
Over time whole extended families began to invest heavily in this enterprise since, although technically illegal, it was not a problem once the product reached the Reserve.  One company in particular, Grand River Enterprises, became wildly successful with owners becoming in the process immensely wealthy - wisely expanding into other business enterprises.  They presently employ upwards of 300 Reserve residents.  The gravy train just kept moving and there appeared to be no significant impediments (although GRE was taken to Court in the USA to answer charges when their activities crossed some line or other). 
More information on this enterprise is found in abbreviated form here, or in detail here.  Some of the local brands shown below.

Basically people around here tolerated this illegal behavior because it was a livelihood to friends, neighbours, and kin.  So until 2014 everything was more or less status quo, with a few rough edges (arguments between "retailers" over turf; GRE in legal hot water and issues related to how much if any "taxes" they should pay on Reserve).  However once the Federal Government decided that organized crime was robbing taxpayers or billions of dollars, they decided to crack down via Bill C-10 (Tackling Contraband Tobacco Act) to criminalize the transport or trafficking of contraband cigarettes.  Six Nations got their heads out of ....................... the sand, and realized that they had been living in a dream world for more than a generation and had taken everything for granted and most had put all their eggs in one basket - not a wise thing.  So the panic mode set in. 

A picture of the GRE (Deutchland) factory in Germany is seen below.

Six Nations Takes Action on Bill C-10:  The Elected Council, the Hereditary Council, GRE, other groups all scurring around linking up with other communities engaged in the same illegal practices (e.g., Akwesasne, Kahnawake, Tyendinaga) to try to convince the Federal Government that the economies here depended on contraband cigarettes.  Alas, they did not have much leverage.  Cigarettes are a known health hazard and most of us have lost loved ones to nicotine addiction.  Not much sympathy could be expected from any quarter, considering the nature of the product.  The picture below is perhaps a little sensational - but the baby is purportedly a chain smoker.  Cigarettes are going to be a "hard sell" when lobbying politicians due to both perception and reality.

Here at Six Nations the Elected Chief, was recently elected on a platform of somehow uniting the major factions at Six Nations to address common causes (e.g., land claims).  Articles in "Turtle Island News" have been very critical of the Chief's actions - for example in terms of actions, generally excluding the Hereditary Council supporters, but in the arena of words and rhetoric, claiming a desire to include them.  So it has been the Elected Council who has led the charge to get the Federal Government to repeal Bill C-10.  Alas, they do not seem to have been able to come up with a viable plan.  The Bill is in second reading (shouldn't any action have been taken at first reading?), and will likely pass third reading within a month and go to the Senate for approval and the new provisions to Bill C-10 will become law likely by June.  Six Nations seems oddly resigned to the facts here, but they are presently in Ottawa attempting to lobby support to in some undefined way mitigate the likely economic fall out.  As is so often the case, instead of employing self - reliance as a strategy, Six Nations expects the Government to come to the rescue - despite on the other hand wanting government out of their lives, and espousing all sorts of adamant statements about sovereignty and self - determination.  Self - determination does not, apparently, involve self - reliance.  See book by Tsimshian lawyer Calvin Helin, Dances with Dependency: Out of Poverty Through Self-Reliance, Woodland Hills, CA, Ravencrest Publishing, 2008.

So expecting some sort of government bail out, or rescue, Six Nations Elected Chief appears to realize that things are not going well.  At Six Nations, since Caledonia 2006, a rule of thumb has been, when cornered or when in doubt, turn to disruptive and anti-social strategies, they often work.  What the Chief does not seem to realize though is that when the product is cigarettes, public support will be difficult to achieve under the most delicate of negotiations.  But threats of dire consequences, a reflection of desperation and the fact that there was no viable proposal to the government, began to be expressed by those in authority.

Threat of Violence if Bill C-10 Passes:  Quite frankly, even understanding the dynamic here, I was shocked to learn that the Elected Chief had threatened that if Six Nations doesn't get their way - expect violence!

In "Turtle Island News", April 16, 2014, p.3 there is an article, "Elected chief warns Ottawa of 'threat of violence' if Bill C-10 approved".  This has an immediate visceral effect on those of us who saw the events of Caledonia 2006 and aftermath unfold.  There were assaults on citizens and police officers, intimidation of people just going about their normal routines (e.g., requiring them to have Haudenosaunee passports to get past barricades to drive to their own home), vandalism, arson and so on.  The situation brought out the basest of tendencies in a disturbingly high number of Six Nations Community members.  It is well known around here what "violence" means, and considering that people's livelihoods are on the line - who knows what escalation might occur.  The words, attributed to the Elected Chief, noted in the newspaper article were, "If this bill passes, there's a threat of violence that could occur in our communities".  Although the passage is open to interpretation, the way I read it is that Six Nations will turn their anger on local people, not Ottawa.

The threat was made after meeting with senators, and likely realizing that desperate times call for desperate measures.  If this is not an idle threat, and push does come to shove, there is one thing that is certain.  Residents of Caledonia and surrounds have had it up to the gills with the antics shown by Six Nations Community members.  If it becomes evident that Elected Chief Hill's words are to be interpreted literally, then I will include what was originally written in this paragraph - but I don't want to jump the gun - there is as yet no evidence that actions would follow words in this instance.

It is a shame that Elected Chief Hill appears to have not thought through the consequences of what was said.  People around here know full well what the terms Six Nations and violence mean when used in the same sentence. 

Perhaps Chief Hill was just overstating the case to make a point.  Lets hope so.

Last Minute Efforts to "Kill Bill: C-10":  The cover page of "Two Row Times", April 23rd, 2014 has two thirds of the page in gold, with the words, "Kill Bill: c10" at the top, and three red lines descending to the bottom of the gold area under the I, and the two Ls - making it look like blood dripping in three parallel lines.  Subtle .................  Of course since things are in a crisis mode now, out come the "supporters" and "solidarity" groups who have in the past used Six Nations to further their own causes.  In the article, written by the "TRT Staff" (which includes known non-Native Communists and Anarchists) of the above paper entitled, "Coalition created to fight Bill C-10" (p.7), they call the Bill, "an act to criminalize Native tobacco".  It is not at all difficult to figure out who the true author of this article is.  "They" invite readers to visit the website that has been set up in Toronto, namely

In looking at the content of this website, there are some expected and unexpected articles.  One entitled, "Tobacco: History and Health" starts with the following paragraph, As  I place Mr. X on a breathing machine he flashes me a look from his terrified eyes. I know this look well, the desperate cry for help of a drowning man. But he is not drowning in water. He has spent a lifetime drowning in smoke and his lungs are now so shattered that his tiring, heaving shoulders are unable to bring in enough air for his next breath. I will not be able to pull him back to shore. His lungs are failing, he is dying and he knows it. 

The last paragraph in the article is as follows, I would hope that just as tobacco helped nation build for the United States so too it may allow Ongwehon:we nations to rebuild their sovereignty and along with that other economic opportunities that are less harmful than commercial Tobacco. In the meantime, attempting to deny them this right will only lead to further poverty, marginalization and criminalization all of which are powerful contributors to ill health and chronic disease.

Dr. Chris Keefer is a physician in the emergency department of the Brantford General Hospital.

According to the TRT article, the Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903 is taking a lead role in this venture (how their members feel about their dues going to this cause is another matter). Local 3903 is headed by Tom Keefer, an owner / manager of TRT, who has never made a secret of his Communist and Anarchist affiliations.  If history teaches us anything, this will mean "protests" on the doorstep of Caledonia - again - with the specter of chaos looming largely, as is the stated goal of these groups.

Before I read the article it occurred that they would need to find some cause to which Canadian citizens would be more sympathetic (cigarette sales will not evoke much sympathy) and put it into play.  Indeed, they somehow managed to bring in the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and stretch it to fit the cigarette mold.  Then out comes the Two Row Wampum assumed treaty rights, and the supposed "attacks" by the Harper Government on Native people.  Immediately below the above article is an "editorial" entitled, "Stop Harper's war on indigenous communities" filled with righteous indignation and misinformation.  It would be more persuasive if Native people authored these articles.

Turning to the other Reserve Newspaper, "Turtle Island News" to see what they have to say about recent developments in the fight against Bill C-10, there is only a cartoon (p.6) showing the Native man with a ball and chain on his leg (the caption on the ball reads, "Disunity Since 1924") and a huge WWII type sea mine with a lit fuse and "Bill C-10" written on it.  The balloon over the man's head says, "This can't end well". 

Interesting that as yet in TIN there is no information about the White radical "solidarity" supporters affiliated with the rival TRT newspaper.  There is every reason to suspect (based on past behaviour) that TRT officials will, as they have many times in the past (before their involvement with TRT), use Six Nations to further their own radical agenda, with the primary targets of their venom being the innocent but convenient residents of Caledonia.


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